EYE surgeons at a Hampshire hospital are transforming patients’ lives with the use of cutting-edge technology.
Patients across the region who undergo corneal transplants at the Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth (QA) can be in and out of surgery within 20 minutes with no injections or stitches and have a much quicker recovery |time than with traditional surgery.
Diseases of the cornea usually affect people over the age of 65 and if left untreated, can lead to blindness.
The cornea is the window of the eye and when it’s affected by disease it becomes cloudy producing poor vision. One of the ways to treat this is by means of a corneal transplant Traditionally it has involved replacing the full thickness of the cornea with a donor cornea, an operation requiring a general anaesthetic and stitches.
The latest procedure, known as endothelial transplantation, has been a major advancement in corneal transplant surgery since its introduction in 2010. But the results have shown a marked improvement since the use of an instrument known as a microkeratome, developed by German firm Gebauer.
This high-precision instrument allows surgeons to prepare the corneal transplant with unparalleled accuracy.
Consultant ophthalmic surgeon Mr Rakesh Jayaswal, pictured, who leads the hospital’s corneal service, describes the developments taking place at the QA as revolutionary.
Mr Jayaswal, who specialises in the treatment of complex corneal disease, said: “The Gebauer microkeratome system is only available in six hospitals around the country but we are the only centre in the UK to offer the latest technology.
“The results have been exceptional. The published data from some of the largest and most well- respected institutions show 43 per cent of patients achieving driving vision six months after surgery.
“At QA, 70 per cent of our patients having the new procedure are achieving driving vision within just one month.
“We are pushing the boundaries with corneal transplantation at the QA.
“Evidence shows that the thinner the graft, the better the results.
“This equipment allows us to prepare the corneal transplant tissue to less than one tenth of a millimetre consistently.”
Mr Jayaswal said surgery used to take up to two hours and patients needed an overnight stay in hospital.
He added: “It could sometimes take up to two years for vision to settle completely and there was a greater risk of complications with the graft failing or the onset of glaucoma.”
More than 70 patients have benefited from the new treatment since it was introduced at the hospital in November 2012 and Mr Jayaswal reports that levels of patient satisfaction are extremely high.
“It is so much more straightforward, he says. “It is carried out using just anaesthetic eye drops.
“There are no injections or sutures and patients are in and out of theatre within 20 minutes. Many centres prepare the cornea for transplantation by hand but this instrument avoids this.”
Mr Jayaswal and his team have presented their developments at an international conference on endothelial transplantation in Amsterdam and are due to attend another later in the year in Lithuania.
“This is an incredibly exciting development”, he said, “and we are extremely proud to be at the forefront of it.”